Disaster Readiness: Being Prepared For Any Emergency
For many, self-sufficiency is a lifestyle choice. Being able to live off of your own property takes constant work and upkeep; it's not for everyone. However, there are certain precautions every household should undertake to prepare for emergency situations. Hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, blizzards, extended power outages- every part of the United States is vulnerable to one form of disaster or another. The question is: if your home was stranded for a week, how would you get through it? The following article covers the major preparations you should have ready in case worse comes to worst.
You should have at least a week's worth of food in your house at all times, preferably much more. Canned goods are best for this purpose, as they store easily and last for years. If you have a basement, pantry, garage, or even attic space, you have room to build a stockpile of food. Now, this may seem difficult with the economy being what it is. Not many families have several hundred dollars lying around to buy three months' worth of food. My strategy is this: every time you go grocery shopping, look out for deals on canned and non-perishable foods. For example, my local store always has a '10 for $10' deal on various goods. I buy ten items of food every week or two and have thus amassed a large collection of food for only $30 a month.
If you have animals, also keep a few spare bags of food for them!
Even more important than food is fresh water. Having a supply of clean water is essential for disaster situations that last more than three days. The general rule of thumb is that one person needs a gallon of water per day for drinking and sanitation. How you store this water depends on how much space you have. I would recommend a storage barrel specifically designed to hold sanitary water, but a cheaper alternative is to just buy gallon containers of water and stack them on a shelf.
If you are really planning for the long haul, you could also set up a rain barrel for consistent water collection.
The very definition of a disaster implies that it may be dangerous, and you can't depend on access to a hospital. Having a first aid kit and basic medical skills could save lives. A first aid kit should include:
- Alcohol swabs
- Sterile gloves
- Bandages of various sizes
- Burn and antibiotic ointments
- Aspirin or other pain relief.
Modern plumbing can make us prone to forget one simple fact- humans are dirty creatures. Have bags, sanitary wipes, and even bottles of shampoo and soap, if you want to smell nice for the end of the world. Know how to safely handle and dispose of waste- burial is generally recommended.
Ladies should also keep a good supply of sanitary pads and tampons.
With the loss of electricity, you're going to want a small arsenal of tools at hand. Have the following in a special backpack or duffle bag in case of emergencies.
- Flashlights with spare batteries
- Hand-crank radio
- Filter mask
- Can opener
- Hammer, wrenches, screw drivers
- Duct tape
- Maps of the area
- Matches and lighters
- Unscented bleach to clean water (16 drops per gallon)
- Whistle to call for help
If you are taking medication for any conditions, have a month's supply on hand if at all possible. Also have an extra pair of glasses and some spare contact lenses if you need vision correction. Diabetics should keep reserve insulin and asthmatics should have extra inhalers.
Staying warm is essential to protecting yourself and your family. Keep extra blankets and some sleeping bags in a closet in case of cold night. You may also want to keep some fire-starters. Also have an extra change of warm clothing in a bag- including shoes and socks! You can also grab a few hand-warmers.
Cash and Paper Items
Keep a hundred dollars or more in cash in your duffle bag or with your first aid kit. Credit cards and checks may not do you any good during a disaster, but cash goes a long way toward changing minds. Also consider keeping some jewelry around; if all else fails, gold has always carried value. Keep current copies of all your insurance records, including vehicle and homeowner's insurance in waterproof bags.
Hopefully, you will never need to use your emergency supplies, but being prepared is always better than being unprepared. If disaster strikes, you will be able to batten down the hatches with your family and wait out whatever circumstances life throws at you. Remember: The self-sufficient hope for the best, and plan for the worst!